Saturday, February 09, 2008

In Contrast

J. came to our school after first quarter, after her parents read that NCLB-derived letter informing them that her current school had not met performance levels for all AYP significant sub-groups. She was given the option of attending one of two other district middle schools that were not in PI status. I gotta tell you, most mid-year enrollees are kids who've been kicked out, counseled out, or moved out of other schools and districts just ahead of the truancy citation, not this awesome kid whose parents were seeking a better education for their daughter.

Sometime in the last week or so, J. started having problems with L. Egged on by lame friends on both sides, the two girls "fought," after school one day.

No one got arrested, cited, or detained.

Instead, the principal and counselor worked to get the whole story, and then pulled in both J. and L. for one of those long talks that reveals (surprise!) they liked each other. They didn't have any problems or anger toward one another; they were being manipulated by friends looking to get in on some drama. Middle school: from fighting to tear-soaked hugging in 24 hours. Later, the counselor called in both sets of friends cuz she's wicked smart, and let's J. and L. tell them there's no beef here, so don't start any, and by the way, you suck for trying to get us to fight.

No one got arrested, cited, or detained.

But it won't happen this way automatically or by happy accident. It requires a willingness to work with kids, the ability to understand kids and the culture they've built in and between groups of friends, the commitment to reform and correct behavior rather than merely punish. It requires patience, savvy, time, and the refusal to buy into the fallacy of can't behave, can't reach for more, can't be more. Sadly, these attributes are nowhere near as universal or compulsary as they need to be.

Interesting postscript to this tale:

Class is ending while J. and L. are doing the crying thing, and both need their backpacks. I unceremoniously throw L.'s stuff in, because I'm not so thrilled with her at this moment, but before I can do the same for J., the little spiky-haired boy who sits next to her, A., has carefully packed up her bag, zipped it closed, and is handing it to me with just the neatest 7th-grader-I'm-proud-of-myself smile, saying, "I packed up J.'s stuff for her. I even put her homework inside the rings." We'll ignore for a moment the fact that he won't put his own damn homework inside those binder rings unless I loom over him for every facet of the operation, and just dig on what's going on here.

I take the bags to the counselor's office, hand J. her bag and say, "A. packed up all your things for you."

And aw man, the smile. That shy look-away smile. What serendipity in the seating chart and necessity of classroom-removing counseling.


Blogger thepowerguides said...

Sometimes it scares me that schools, teachers, principal are all judged on test results , how do you measure an incident like that or grade , that can only be described as good teaching which includes understanding


7:47 PM  
Blogger Onyx said...

How wonderful that things worked out the way they should.

I love a happy ending. I love that A stepped up to the plate and for a few moments was wonderful.

8:56 PM  
Blogger TMAO said...


Yeah, there's a disconnect, but it's not as great as you say. Schools that do the rest of the stuff well set the stage for quality teaching and learning, and the places where one occurs without the other seem far more the exception than the rule.

9:31 PM  
Blogger Midlife Teacher-in-Training said...

I love your blog. I want to read it. And so I have a favor to ask...would you consider putting it into regular dark-on-light type, rather than reverse? Readability of reverse is very hard on many people's eyes, including my 50 year old ones. Think about it? Thanks again for the great blog.

5:13 PM  
Blogger TMAO said...


One day in my junior year of college, my buddy [Victory] called me into his office, this little shoebox of a thing given to the Editor-In-Chief of the "Independent Student Weekly" for which we spilled much ink, and asked me to read something from his computer. He had gone to the tools menu, selected options, hit the general tab, and clicked the box marked blue background, white text. It freaked me out, but ever since that day I've found it far easier to read light text on a dark background. It's far easier on my admittingly younger eyes, and I can't go back, unfortunately.

Plus, it makes the whole thing look so much more... badass, don't you think?

6:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Midlife Teacher, Re: the white on black text -- thanks for answering, and thanks for not saying, "Duh, Midlife, just read a feed of my blog in your Google reader." Just thought of that today when, yet again, a blog I read linked to you and I again encountered your (yes, badass-looking) blog.

5:14 PM  
Blogger TMAO said...

Since I don't know what a google-reader is, no worries on not referencing one in some passive-aggressive way.

11:22 PM  

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